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Goenaga v. MacDonald

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2017

C.O. STEVE MACDONALD, et al., Defendants.


          RICHARD P. CONABOY United States District Judge

         Here the Court considers Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 58) concerning Defendant Correctional Officer (“C/O”) Clark's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 48). Magistrate Judge Mehalchick concludes that Plaintiff, who was an inmate at the Dauphin County Prison during the relevant time period and is now incarcerated at FCI-Beckley in West Virginia, has adequately pled Eighth Amendment claims against Defendant Lexlucski for excessive force and Defendants MacDonald and Clark for failure to intervene but has failed to state a claim on other matters alleged. (Doc. 58 at 18.) Therefore, she recommends that the motion be granted in part and denied part. (Id.)

         Defendant Clark objects to the Report and Recommendation on the basis that Plaintiff cannot seek damages on his excessive force claim because he has not pled more-than-de-minimis physical injury. (Docs. 59, 60.) Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's objection and the time for doing so has passed. Therefore, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         I. Background

         Because Defendant does not object to the background information contained in the Report and Recommendation, the Court adopts the facts as set out by Magistrate Judge Mehalchick.

The facts as alleged by Goenaga are as follows: Around 2:45 a.m. on September 12, 2014, Lt. Lexlucski was summoned in response to an incident in Goenaga's cell. (Doc. 39, at 2). Lt. Lexlucski called Sgt. Parson to take Goenaga to medical, whose knee had “popped out of place.” (Doc. 39, at 3). Following treatment, which did not include pain medication, Goenaga was sent back to his cell. (Doc. 39, at 3). Goenaga returned to medical around 3:40 a.m. for regular insulin, after which he was handcuffed for transportation to the Special Housing Unit. (Doc. 39, at 3).
Due to Goenaga's injured knee, Sgt. Parson told C/O's MacDonald and Clark to use a wheelchair for transportation. (Doc. 39, at 3). They refused, due to frustrations with the timing and forced Goenaga to walk on his injured knee. (Doc. 39, at 3). When Goenaga could not keep up, he was dragged. (Doc. 39, at 4). Upon the command of Lt. Lexlucski, C/O's dropped Goenaga to the ground, placed their knees in his back, and sprayed mace in Goenaga's face. (Doc. 39, at 4-5). Goenaga also states the officers slapped him in the back of the head. (Doc. 39, at 5). Goenaga remained in Special Housing for 15 days prior to his return to general population (Doc. 39, at 6).

(Doc. 58 at 1-2.) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint clarifies that it was Defendant Lexlucski who maced him twice while Defendants MacDonald and Clark held him down and failed to intervene. (Doc.39 at 4-5.) Plaintiff also states that he was making no attempts to resist commands and being maced prevented him from breathing. (Id.) He says that he was maced the second time after he “began to beg the lieutenant to please stop hurting him because he wasn't resisting and asked the lieutenant why he was macing him with pepper spray.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff adds that Defendant Clark was then “told to get the black chair. When he got back with the black chair plaintiff was strapped into the chair for no reason and removed from population.” (Id.) When he was in the elevator strapped into the chair, Plaintiff states that “he was slapped several times in the head for waking them up from their rest time.” (Id.)

         The Report and Recommendation sets out the following procedural background:

Goenaga filed suit again C/O's MacDonald and Clark, as well as Lt. Lexlucski and Dauphin County Prison Warden Dominic DeRose. (Doc. 1). Over two years later, only Defendants DeRose and Clark have been served. Defendant DeRose filed a motion to dismiss on April 7, 2015. (Doc. 18; Doc. 22). The Court granted in part and denied in part DeRose's motion. (Doc. 26, at 20). The Court found Goenaga adequately pled [] Eighth Amendment excessive force claims against Defendant Lexlucski and Eighth Amendment failure-to-intervene claims against Defendant MacDonald. (Doc. 26, at 20). The Court recommended dismissal of: Defendant DeRose for lack of personal involvement (Doc. 26, at 9); claims of deliberate indifference related to allegedly inadequate dietary provisions (Doc. 26, at 11); and claims grounded in Goenaga's placement in the Special Housing Unit (Doc. 26, at 13). The Court declined dismissal on the grounds that Goenaga failed to exhaust and that the Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity as they did not violate any constitutional rights. (Doc. 26, at 8; 17). Following issuance of the Order accompanying these holdings, Goenaga filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 39).
Defendant Clark returned waiver of service on August 4, 2016, filing the instant motion to dismiss on August 26, 2016. (Doc. 46; Doc. 48). Defendant Clark asserts Goenaga's complaint: (1) does not meet the pleading standards of Rule 8; (2) alleged only de minimis physical injuries; (3) does not allege personal involvement to all Defendants; (4) does not allege deliberate indifference; (5) does not establish any Constitutional violation by Goenaga's placement in prison; (6) does not establish supervisory liability; (7) does not show the Defendants violated Goenaga's rights; (8) fails for Goenaga's admitted failure to exhaust; and (9) that exhaustion is not excused by any imminent danger. (Doc. 51).
Defendant Clark filed his brief in support on September 16, 2016. (Doc. 51). Having received no brief in opposition, the Court entered an Order extending the deadline for Goenaga's opposition to November 8, 2016. (Doc. 52). On November 10, 2016, Goenaga moved for another extension and to obtain copies of the Defendant's motion. (Doc. 53). The Court granted Goenaga's motion, extending the deadline for a brief in opposition to December 2, 2016. (Doc. 54). On December 6, 2016, Goenaga informed the Court that he had not received copies of the motion. (Doc. 55). In response, the Court extended the deadline again to January 31, 2017. (Doc. 56). This deadline passed without communication from Goenaga. Accordingly, per the terms of the Order, the Court considers the motion to dismiss unopposed and therefor ripe for review.

(Doc. 58 at 2-3.)

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Report and Recommendation

         When a magistrate judge makes a finding or ruling on a motion or issue, his determination should become that of the court unless objections are filed. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150-53 (1985). When objections are filed to a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, the district judge makes a de novo review of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Cippolone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 822 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 976 (1987). To warrant de novo review, the objections must be both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). The court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in ...

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